Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
John Birkelbach's newest creation almost went by another name.
“I was going to call her 'Petunia,' then realized that's the name of Porky Pig's girlfriend,” the artist said, teasing members of the Rusk Garden Club. “So I decided to call her 'Daisy' instead.”
Daisy, the most recent of Birkelbach's hip-high wood carvings that grace outdoor locations near downtown Rusk, was dedicated Wednesday in honor of the local Garden Club.
The mesquite-hewn carving is located at the intersection of 4th and Main Streets, just down the road from “Captain Squirt,” who graces the 4th Street garden between the local fire station and Prosperity Bank. Both statues, along with “Kid M.D.” and “Dick and Jane,” are part of a “Children Are Our Future” series.
The artist also created a nativity scene with an image of St. Joseph holding the infant Jesus. This November, an angel will be added to the scene, he said.
“This is what I do now,” the retired Methodist minister said, adding that some of his work can be found inside churches in the guise of life-sized crosses. “It's just such a privilege to do this (because) it's not work – it's fun.”
The children's series also has been a joyful endeavor because of what it represents.
“I'm really grateful to participate in something like this because of its meaning, because of what the Garden Club is about: They're all connected by (the theme of) keeping Rusk beautiful,” Birkelbach said.
Garden Club member Joy Mathis said that the group has joined in the beautification project by offering to put flower beds in town “to make it look prettier. It has such potential.”